March 22, 2014

Fort Worth entrepreneurs chosen for Facebook advisory council

Jewelry Nut Auctions, launched on Facebook in 2011, has grown to $1.5 million in sales in less than three years.

Fort Worth entreprenuers Victoria Wise and Meredith Miner launched their million-dollar jewelry auction business on Facebook a couple of years ago and now Facebook wants to know about their success.

The women, co-founders and owners of Jewelry Nut Auctions, were chosen from the millions of businesses with Facebook pages to serve along with owners of 11 other businesses on its inaugural Small and Medium Business Council. The group will advise and provide feedback to help Facebook improve its business tools and resources.

The women recently returned from a whirlwind, two-day trip to Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, where they met with the other business owners and Facebook executives.

“It was really exciting,” Wise said. “We got to hear from the executives and their take on where Facebook is today and where they’re taking it.”

The women signed a confidentiality agreement and can’t reveal what was discussed, but said they learned quite a bit about how other businesses use the leading social media site. They said they are now better armed to keep growing their e-commerce business, which was launched on a Facebook platform in the dining room of Miner’s home 2 1/2 years ago.

“It’s very important to us in particular because we don’t conduct business anywhere else,” Wise said. “We all use Facebook for our business and have found an interesting way to use Facebook.”

Elisabeth Diana, a Facebook spokeswoman who helped organize and run the recent gathering, said Facebook has 25 million active business pages, mostly made up of small businesses, and more than 1 million active advertisers.

During the past couple of years, Facebook has been working to create and improve its resources and thought it would be useful to meet face-to-face with some entrepreneurs, Diana said. As part of being on the council, the businesses will provide feedback to Facebook for the next several months.

The selected businesses represent a cross section of industries as well as e-commerce businesses, Diana said.

“Jewelry Nut Auctions has pioneered a great business model,” Diana said.

Wise, a native of Duncan, Okla., and Miner, a Fort Worth native, started Jewelry Nut Auctions following a conversation they had during a play date a few years ago. They held their first auction in June of 2011, offering a monogram necklace. In 2012, sales were $1.3 million, yhey increased to $1.5 million last year and are expected to reach $1.6 million this year.

Both have career business backgrounds and it was Wise who during that conversation talked about ways of doing business on Facebook. They started out offering jewelry and have since added clothing items and home goods. Wise once ran her own jewelry business, selling to 40 boutiques through the Dallas Apparel Mart and later at Barse Jewelry as director of product development. Miner was a vice president of Crow Holdings in Dallas, the real estate company of the Trammell Crow Co.

Fans must “like” Jewelry Nut Auctions’ Facebook page to participate. The page currently has more than 100,000 fans and they typically have about 53,000 fans participating during the auctions.

The 90-minute auctions are held on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Basically, they offer a limited quantity of an item at a fixed price and buyers type “sold” on a product they want to buy. About 60 items are offered at each auction, selected much like a retailer would stock a store. The “auction” comes in as shoppers must act fast if they want an item.

“We bring things that are trending or even on the cusp of trending,” Wise said. “That’s what keeps our business relevant and everybody excited about it.”

That’s what Facebook liked about Jewelry Nut Auctions’ story, too, Diana said.

Jewelry Nut Auctions is not being paid for being on the council but they will get to enjoy a few perks, Wise said. They will have direct contact to Facebook staff should an issue or question come up, and they’ll get to update their pages in advance of other businesses, she said.

And if they choose to host sessions on how to use Facebook for a business, Facebook will provide support materials for that, Wise said.

Diana said Facebook plans on additional business councils.

“We want to be able to foster a community among the small businesses on Facebook,” Diana said.

Some of the other businesses on the council are Divas Snow Gear, which sells a line of women’s snowmobile apparel, PYT Burger in Philadelphia, and Morgan Miller Plumbing in Missouri.

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